I know what you did last October (hint: begins with a “C”)

If you had a gripe about a product or service last month, you’re in good company.

October was our second-busiest month for consumer complaints, with 315 new cases landing in our “in” box. That’s just a few cases shy of our record, which was set in August.

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October’s monthly consumer complaint report card reflects a significant uptick from the 266 cases we received in September.

Quick reminder: We only receive the most difficult and intractable cases through this site. The grievances represent a tiny fraction of the overall problems with a company. Often, consumers come to us when they’ve tried everything, up to and including litigation.

American Airlines led the pack again, as it has the entire year. It was followed by United Airlines and Enterprise. Delta Air Lines, which normally ranks just behind American and United, slipped to fifth place.

Note: we don’t “weight” these figures against number of customers or passengers. We think the numbers speak for themselves. (If you want to do your own math, please break out your calculator and scroll down to the comments. But please be nice.)

Here are the October figures:

Company Complaints Percent
American Airlines 35 11.11%
United Airlines 20 6.35%
Enterprise 11 3.49%
Expedia 7 2.22%
Delta Air Lines 7 2.22%
Hertz 6 1.90%
Frontier 5 1.59%
Southwest Airlines 5 1.59%
Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) 5 1.59%
SATA 4 1.27%

By comparison, here are the September numbers.

Company Complaints Percent
American Airlines 18 6.16%
United Airlines 15 5.14%
British Airways 7 2.40%
Avis 7 2.40%
Expedia 7 2.40%
Hertz 7 2.40%
Viking 6 2.05%
Enterprise 6 2.05%
Turkish Airlines 5 1.71%
Delta Air Lines 5 1.71%

Here’s our running total for the first nine months of the year:

Company Complaints Percent
American Airlines 349 11.72%
United Airlines 159 5.34%
Expedia 134 4.50%
Delta Air Lines 86 2.89%
Enterprise 75 2.52%
Hertz 69 2.32%
British Airways 59 1.98%
Avis 53 1.78%
Southwest Airlines 49 1.65%
Viking 42 1.41%

We’ve had a total of 2,977 cases in the first nine months of 2016.

What do these numbers mean?

American Airlines has, for all intents and purposes, won the prize for 2016: most complained-about company. There’s a small chance another airline will jump ahead if we have a difficult November and December. Think ice storms that miraculously don’t affect any of American’s operations.

American will tell you that it gets more complaints because it’s the biggest airline. That’s nonsense. A quick look at the year-to-date numbers and a little knowledge of the airline industry will show that the airline gets far more than its fair share of complaints, even when you account for its size. Check the Department of Transportation’s monthly report cards if you doubt me.

The other noteworthy company is Expedia. Is it trying to be an airline? I’m only half kidding. We get so many complaints about Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity, it boggles the mind. And again, if you compare its size to Priceline and Booking.com, you’ll see that it far outperforms its larger rivals, in terms of complaints.

How does it manage to do that? I have no idea.

In previous analysis, I’ve said that heads should roll because of this kind of abysmal performance (or should I say, underperformance). Some commenters believed I was suggesting the customer service representatives offering bad service ought to be canned.

I’d like to clarify: It’s the managers — the VPs and executive VPs — who allowed this to happen on their watch who should be shown the door. The folks on the front lines are only doing what they’ve been ordered to do.

Something tells me November is going to be very, very busy.

Customer service is getting

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13 thoughts on “I know what you did last October (hint: begins with a “C”)

  1. The Beatles once sang, “You’ve got to believe it’s getting better. Can’t get any worse,” Let’s hope they were right. Nevertheless, I voted Worse for now.

  2. As this site gets more well known, the number of complaints sent here will increase, regardless of the rate of change in the level of customer service. There never will be a shortage of problems for the problem solving business.

  3. I wonder if Viking is aware their complaint ratio for this year so far is the worst for the cruise lines. Interesting that YTD they have overtaken NCL.

  4. I’d love to see the percentage of cases that are “the company screwed up and I need your help” versus “they’re refusing to make an exception for me and I need your help.”

  5. I’d love to see these stats broken down by company size, and put into a ratio of some sort.

    For example, “Airline X scored 1 complaint on Elliot.org for ever 15,000 passengers flown.”

  6. I believe CS is getting better in regard to offshoring, more and more CSR I talk with are based in call centers in the US.

    How do the OTA get away with it? Price, Americans have proven time an again they will dismiss all factors but cost and price when it comes to travel.

    1. Yes, we do tend to vote with our wallets. Nonetheless, reasonable complaints need to be addressed. Note the word “reasonable.”

  7. No surprise American leads the way. As many of you know, last Friday American had a jet engine explode, with massive fire, on takeoff from Ohare. No surprise, but the paxs were very upset, many in tears. One thing stood out. Many paxs, several still shaking, said American was trying to get as many of them on a flight to Miami around 7pm, less than 5 hours after the accident. Needless to say, many said they’d like to calm down first, before they boarded another plane. You’d think a bit of compassion would be in order before trying to herd them on another plane.

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